The increasing prevalence of obesity and its effects on our society warrant intensifying basic animal research for understanding why habitual intake of highly palatable foods has increased due to recent global environmental changes. Here, we report that pregnant mice that consume a diet high in omega-6 (n-6) polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) and low in omega-3 (n-3) PUFAs (an n-6high/n-3low diet), whose n-6/n-3 ratio is approximately 120, induces hedonic consumption in the offspring by upregulating the midbrain dopaminergic system. We found that exposure to the n-6high/n-3low diet specifically increases the consumption of palatable foods via increased mesolimbic dopamine release. In addition, neurodevelopmental analyses revealed that this induced hedonic consumption is programmed during embryogenesis, as dopaminergic neurogenesis is increased during in utero access to the n-6high/n-3low diet. Our findings reveal that maternal consumption of PUFAs can have long-lasting effects on the offspring’s pattern for consuming highly palatable foods.
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